the brotherhood of ‘double impact’ – Van damme vs. van damme.

Double Impact would mark one of the 7x Van Damme has worked with writer/director Sheldon Lettich (Lionheart, Bloodsport). JCVD and Sheldon collaborated on The Order (2001) and The Hard Corps (2011) – two underrated JCVD pictures that slipped through the cracks of his heavyweight filmography. Double Impact continues the theme of brotherhood, prevalent in this particular Van Damme era of the early ’90s.

Alex Wagner (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Danielle Wilde (Alonna Shaw) in Double Impact Columbia Pictures, 1990.

Van Damme portrays both Chad and Alex, twin brothers separated at birth from the night of their parent’s grisly murders. They reunite decades later in a plot of vengeance. Chad was raised in France by his fathers bodyguard, Frank (Geoffrey Lewis) and later moved to Los Angeles to become a playboy yoga instructor for girls, and teaching karate to aggressive adults.

Moon (Bolo Yeung) and Chad Wagner (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in Double Impact. Columbia Pictures, 1990.

Chad maintains his toughness when it comes to combat (even in blue leggings & silk underwear). When his Godfather, Frank shows him a picture of Alex – a manlier version of himself – living as a V.S.O.P. cognac smuggler in Hong Kong, Chad decides to track down his brother and convince him to find the mafia figures responsible for killing their parents and upending their family business.

Chad, left and Alex, right. Columbia Pictures, 1990.

The no-holds-barred action sequences in Hong Kong are directed with precision and Alex becomes the spark plug of the duo throughout various scenes of gunplay. Sheldon Lettich’s style is remniscent of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986); Alex twirls on the dirt while firing a Beretta 9mm at the enemy. Van Damme was a genius in figuring out how to subtly represent the differences between these two characters; Alex clearly has more mojo and testosterone than Chad. Moreover, Chad is the gentleman/playboy whereas Alex is the hardhearted hothead – headstrong but impetuous.

Chad makes love to Danielle in a fantasy/dream sequence in Double Impact, Columbia, 1990.

Together, they’re an unstoppable rebel force but only if Alex can get rid of the major suspicions he has of his long-lost brother, especially with his lady, Danielle (Alonna Shaw) who suppresses a hidden attraction for Chad. Danielle helps Alex, Chad and Frank as they go to war amid oceanic waters in Hong Kong against an impressive line-up of 6 villains. The “bro vs. bro” sequence is most memorable when a naughty Chad fights a ‘Johnny Walker, Red Label’ swigging Alex who downs the entire bottle to the head, prior to a 1v1 fist fight; pinning blood against blood in a surreal sequence of “Van Damme vs. Van Damme.”

Alex (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Columbia Pictures, 1990.

The JCVD tag-team duo is avenging their parents murder; long-lost identical twins tracking down the organized crime figures accountable. This concept of split-screen cinematography (shooting the same scene twice with the same actor) and using special effects to make it appear seamless in post prod., was an ambitious feat in ’91. Sheldon Lettich pulled it off with aesthetic realism; mad respect for Van Damme – he portrayed two distinguishable characters, while maintaining authentic identicality throughout the film.

Danielle (Alonna Shaw) and Kara (Corinna Everson) in Double Impact. Columbia, 1990.

England-born Alex grew up as an orphan on the streets of Hong Kong. He thinks the way Chad lived in L.A. as a male yoga instructor inside a karate studio on Rodeo Drive was soft, compared to his grueling life as a black market smuggler of Mercedes Benz sedans in Hong Kong (that aren’t available in the markets of mainland China). The brother vs. brother dynamic is a premise in the first two acts. Chad’s fantasy for Danielle is on his forefront, considering her hand has inadvertently been down his silk underwear, after she mistook him for his brother. Double Impact is a classic work of split-screen art; the ambitions of JCVD are put on full-display.

Columbia, 1990.

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